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Saturday, April 23, 2011

On Anonymity

I've seen a couple good posts recently on blogging and anonymity, and it's something I think about. When I started blogging, my explicit goal was that even if a sibling or very close friend stumbled on my blog, they wouldn't be able to tell for certain that it was me. (This doesn't include the Sensual Goddess, who encouraged me from the start to blog.)

I realized after a few months of blogging that I almost certainly had not met my goal. I was careful not to talk about too many potentially identifying things - like "I'm leaving on a trip to X" or "Angelina wants to adopt another third-world baby - I'm starting to think she's seriously crazy."  But someone who knows me in real life would almost certainly be able to map some of my posts to real-life events. Moreover, the Sensual Goddess (who may be biased), says that my writing "voice" is as unmistakable as a fingerprint, and that anyone who read me in other forums (fora?) would look at this blog and identify me instantly.

I have a mixed mind on anonymity. In most (all?) ways, my opinions here reflect my truest and most honest self. While Max is in some ways a mask, it's a mask that allows me to be more myself than I can be in other places. The things I've labeled as "reminiscing" really happened as closely as I was able to recall and document - without embellishment or exhaggeration. The things I've written on love and relationships are my very real opinions. I really think the world would be an all-around happier place if everyone put these ideas into practice.

So why don't I have the courage to stand up in public and state these opinions, if I really believe them?  First, the obvious reason of respectability. I have a job I'd like to keep, and a reputation as an upstanding citizen - and I value that in some ways. Also, it's not just about me. I have family and loved ones who I don't want to be subjected to unwanted attention for their association with me. In my own mind, these aren't really good reasons, and I think that when family circumstances evolve in a few years that I may be willing to be more public with my beliefs.

I now look at anonymity from the perspective of the Google search. I've tried not list list enough facts about myself that a blog reader could plug those facts into Google and have a reasonable chance of finding me. (Parentheticaly, true anonymity from Google (i.e., blogger.com) is a lost battle - if a government agency wanted to know who any of us on blogger.com was, they could be at our front door in 15 minutes. But that's a separate issue.)

In some ways, this isn't a happy realization. I'm basically counting on the fact that I'm a tiny fish in a huge ocean, and will most likely never get any kind of scrutiny. If it ever seems like that assumption isn't true, or I was "outed" in some way, I would likely pull the plug on this instantly. And even that wouldn't really do any good - Google erases nothing. So let's just hope it never comes to that.

9 comments:

  1. Yes! Let's hope it never comes to that. I would miss your blog. :(

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  2. Great post.

    Being found by someone I know does worry me, I know I put too much of me on my blog and shouldn't but it's the only place I can.

    I'm also relying on the 'tiny fish in a huge ocean' thing.

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  3. Much like you, I value this mask and the freedom it allows me (even if, ironically enough, I choose to express myself in self-portraiture). Actually, I think it might be more than freedom. In the end, my persona might be a truer version of myself - the woman that I had tucked away in fear of judgment, in fear that she did not meet the expectations or perceptions of others, in fear of her excessive desire.

    While I don't divulge much about my everyday life, I also think my 'voice' is highly recognisable. But I can't write any other way and if push comes to shove, I'm unsure what I would do now in terms of pulling that plug. I feel as if I'm at a point of no return. The Minx is well and truly out of the (real and virtual) bag now!

    I sincerely hope it never comes to that for you. That would break my heart... ;)

    (Apologies for my wretchedly long-winded comment!)

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  4. Great thoughts~

    I have actually a blog where all my friends, officemates and family know, and I have to be careful about what I say in that blog. It is pretty harmless though as I post stuff about our everyday blog.

    This new blog (Sweet Lust) was a result of my wanting to explore myself in a creative sense. To protect my identify and from unwanted emails, I did not put a lot of info on my background, not even my contact info. I think being anon gives you the freedom to write and express things you normally do. Now the danger of that is also going beyond your boundaries and extremes. So it is important to draw these, and know that at the end, all that you had posted is still all about you. And there are thousands and thousands of blogs - so in a way, we are anons swimming the sea of cyberspace.

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  5. The idea of our writing as a fingerprint is interesting. Certainly my friends on-line know how I write and I've even been "outed" when writing under another pseudonym in the comment section, however, I feel safe in that my approach and topics on-line are so vastly different than my in-person voice that I thing they would be hard to match up.

    Within my social circles we never discuss sex, we don't flirt, I don't swear, and I've never called a friend "you dirty little rope whore." Maybe I'm fooling myself.

    Like all of you, I trust in the strategy of hiding plain sight a little too much.

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  6. I have lots to say on that... But no fish is small enough in that big sea and, as you said, a lot can be easily found on the internet.

    Pulling the plug is one thing, dealing with the aftermaths is another. I also hope you never have to pull the plug - that would make me sad. Selfish? Yes :)

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  7. Great post - I too, struggle with the idea of anonymity. My blog is also my little secret getaway, but when I first started it - I read back a few of the posts and thought - hell, if *anyone* who even remotely knew me read this, they would know *exactly* who I was. So I went back and deleted stuff (and eventually deleted all my old posts) and started over. I struggle with it.

    I think you said it well though, in that in many ways, this really is our "true" self, even more than some people who see us in real life probably think. I think that what I post here is my honest words, thoughts, fantasies, opinions, etc...things that I might not otherwise share with those around me.

    From another tiny fish...

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  8. Great post "Max"....lol. I'm with you. We all want to express what we can't do elsewhere for a variety of reasons. People who know me would spot me in an instant on my blog. But like you, I'm hoping they will never find it.

    What's the worst thing that can happen? Well, family...not such a big deal. Work, as in coworkers, friends! Oh crap...not a good idea. Just hope and pray they never find it...that's all. :)

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  9. Great post! You mention that, initially, you wanted your blog to be such that someone who knew you well wouldn't realize that this was your blog, should he or she stumble upon it. This was our goal as well, in the beginning (and technically still is, even if we're slightly less worried). Ironically, in the beginning of our blog the only commenters we had were a few very trusted "real life" friends who knew about it.

    Lately we find that our blog and our Twitter accounts have become our major social network, as we are less interested in what our real life friends are doing on Facebook. We share a bit more, although we have to think that one would have to be paying very close attention in order to put all the pieces together. You also mention your writing voice, and I know that that is something that is pretty distinct for me. Were certain of my close friends to stumble upon our blog, between my writing, and certain circumstantial details I suppose they could put the pieces together.

    But - as you say - our blogging identities are a mask, but they are a mask that allow us to be much more honest than we can in the real world. We don't want to give it up. We count on the fact that we are just one blog out of - what? Millions? Hundreds of thousands? We haven't given it much thought. We'd hate to be picked on by some sex-negative person with too much time on his or her hands. We know it could happen.

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